Fan Confidence Poll: December 29th, 2014

2014 Record: 84-78 (633 RS, 664 RA, 77-85 pythag. record), did not qualify for postseason

Top stories from last week:

  • Hiroki Kuroda will return to the Hiroshima Toyo Carp in Japan for the 2015 season. He spent the last several weeks — and the last several offseasons, really — deciding his future.
  • The Yankees lost Preston Claiborne off waivers to the Marlins. The team touched base with the Rockies about Troy Tulowitzki two weeks ago and they are not on Cole Hamels’ no-trade list.
  • Brian Cashman confirmed the club’s search for a new hitting coach and first base coach is on hold until after the holidays. Jeff Pentland is under consideration for the hitting coach job.
  • The Yankees were hit with an $18.3M luxury tax bill for the 2014 season.

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?

Hiroki Kuroda returning to Japan in 2015

(Sturgeon General)
(Sturgeon General)

According to reports from various media outlets in both Japan and the United States, Hiroki Kuroda will return to his old team, the Hiroshima Toyo Carp for the 2015 season. Hiroshima has since announced the news. There are no other details at the moment.

Kuroda, who turns 40 in February, contemplated retirement the last few offseasons, though returning to the Carp for one final season was always said to be an option as well. Kuroda pitched for the Carp from 1997-2007 before coming to MLB. He went 103-89 with a 3.69 ERA during his eleven seasons with Hiroshima.

After a four-year stint with the Dodgers, Kuroda joined the Yankees for the 2012 season and spent the last three seasons in New York. His 38-33 record doesn’t do his time in pinstripes justice (because the Yankees never seemed to give him any damn run support) — Kuroda had a 3.44 ERA (3.68 FIP) in 620 innings for the Yankees and has been their best and most reliable starting pitcher since joining the team.

The Yankees seemed to move forward with their offseason under the assumption Kuroda would not return. They re-signed Chris Capuano and traded for Nathan Eovaldi, and there’s still eight weeks before Spring Training begins, so they could always add more pitching. I think they would have re-signed Kuroda to another one-year contract in a heartbeat had he decided to remain in MLB for another year.

I’m really going to miss Kuroda. I was a fan (this is Axisa, by the way) dating back to his time with the Dodgers and he exceeded even my expectations these last three seasons. He joined the Yankees and fit in wonderfully. Like he’d been here for years. So long, #Hirok. It was a great honor.

Holiday Open Thread

Barring any breaking news — the Yankees will hire a hitting coach one of these days, I’m sure of it — I don’t plan on posting anything the next few days. I’ve got Christmas stuff with the family and all that. Baseball news will slow to a crawl anyway. It always does.

If you get desperate for some baseball these next few days, you needn’t worry. A true American hero put the entire MSG-produced 1996 Yankees championship video on YouTube (h/t @a_salta1). It’s embedded above, but, just in case it doesn’t work, here’s the link. I’m riding out to Long Island with my brother tomorrow and I’m planning to watch that sucker on my phone on the way out. Can’t wait.

Secondly, I have a few links to pass along. I’ve been slackin’ and haven’t had much time to read the last few weeks, though I did carve out some time earlier today. Here are the links:

  • Got a sad story to pass along. Josh Peters wrote about the late Brad Halsey, who passed away in October. Halsey battled drug and alcohol addiction for years, and while it was initially reported that he died in a climbing accident, Peters says it may have been suicide. Awful.
  • On a much happier note, agent Joshua Kusnick wrote a piece at Baseball Prospectus (no subs. req’d) about the job-seeker he helped at the Winter Meetings two weeks ago. There are hundreds of job-seekers at the Winter Meetings each year, all trying to get their foot in the door. Kusnick helped this kid do just that. Pretty neat.
  • Shi Davidi has a really great day-by-day look at how the Josh Donaldson trade went down. The Athletics didn’t want to move their star third baseman and it wasn’t until Toronto put Brett Lawrie on the table and things got moving. It took about a week for a trade to come together after that.
  • Couple of cool analytical pieces: Tony Blengino on finding the “real” Chase Headley, Randy Holt on pitching framing, Nikhil Chaturvedi on Mark Teixeira‘s decline, and Kevin Creagh and Steve DiMiceli on the value of prospects.
  • And finally, up at Derek Jeter‘s site, Doc Gooden wrote a letter to his younger self.

So this is the open thread for the next few days. Use it to talk about anything other than politics and religion. This isn’t the place for that. Happy Holidays, everyone.

Marlins claim Preston Claiborne off waivers from Yankees

(Alex Goodlett/Getty)
Soon he will have a terrible beard like all ex-Yanks. (Alex Goodlett/Getty)

The Marlins have claimed Preston Claiborne off waivers from the Yankees, according to Joe Frisaro. New York designated the right-handed reliever for assignment late last week to clear a 40-man roster spot for fellow righty reliever Gonzalez Germen, who was acquired from the Mets in a cash trade.

Claiborne, 27, had a 3.79 ERA (4.00 FIP) with decent strikeout (7.32 K/9 and 18.7 K%), walk (3.03 BB/9 and 7.7 BB%), homer (1.01 HR/9 and 9.2 HR/FB%), and ground ball (43.3%) rates in 71.1 innings spread across 62 relief appearances these last two years. He had a 0.46 ERA (2.39 FIP) in his first 19.2 MLB innings and a 5.05 ERA (4.61 FIP) in 51.2 innings thereafter.

The Yankees drafted Claiborne in the 17th round of the 2010 draft and got some nice mileage out of him. (The expected return for a 17th rounder is basically nothing.) Thanks to Germen, Jacob Lindgren, Bryan Mitchell, Danny Burawa, Branden Pinder, Chase Whitley, and several others, the Yankees have no shortage of up-and-down bullpen candidates for next season. Claiborne had a nice little run last year but that’s about it.

AP: Yankees hit with $18.3M luxury tax bill for 2014

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

According to the Associated Press, the Yankees owe $18.3M in luxury tax for the 2014 season. The team’s payroll for luxury tax purposes was calculated at $225.6M, though their actual payroll was a bit lower at $218.5M. Luxury tax checks are due to the commissioner’s office by January 21st. The money goes towards player benefits and MLB’s Industry Growth Fund.

The $18.3M luxury tax bill is down from $28.1M last year and $19.3M in 2012. The Yankees paid $13.9M in 2011, $18M in 2010, and $26.9M in 2009. The all-time luxury tax record is their $34.1M bill (!) back in 2005. Since the system was implemented back in 2003, the Yankees had paid more than $271M in luxury tax. That is by-frickin-far the most in baseball.

As you surely remember, the Yankees wanted to get under the $189M luxury tax threshold this past season but abandoned that plan after missing the postseason in 2013. It’s impossible to get under the threshold in 2015 based on their current contract commitments and it’ll be damn near impossible in 2016 as well. The Collective Bargaining Agreement expires after the 2016 season and the threshold will presumably go up then, perhaps over $200M, at which point the Yankees could try to get under again.

The Dodgers set new records for actual club payroll ($257.3M) and luxury tax payroll ($277.7M) this past season. Their luxury tax bill was a little more than $26.6M. Los Angeles was taxed at 30% because they were over the luxury tax threshold for the second straight year. The Yankees are taxed at the maximum 50% because they’ve been over the threshold every year since the system was put in place.

The Dodgers and Yankees ranked 1-2 in payroll and were the only teams to owe luxury tax this year. The Phillies ($183.5M), Tigers ($173.3M), and Red Sox ($168.2M) round out the top five payroll clubs. The Astros ($54.7M) and Marlins ($52.5M) had the two lowest payrolls. No other club was under even $77M. The average player salary jumped 11% to $3.69M in 2014.

NYP: Yanks put coaching staff search on hold; considering Jeff Pentland for hitting coach job

Pentland. (Presswire)

It has now been 74 days since the Yankees fired hitting coach Kevin Long and first base coach Mick Kelleher, and, according to George King, it will be a little longer until they name replacements. Brian Cashman confirmed the coaching staff search is on hold until January. “I am not doing anything with the coaches until the holidays are over,” said the GM.

Meanwhile, King and Ken Davidoff report the Yankees are now considering Jeff Pentland for the hitting coach job, though they have yet to reach out to him. “He was suggested to me about a month-and-a-half ago. I haven’t called him. That doesn’t mean I won’t call him,” said Cashman. Pentland told the NY Post scribes he’d welcome a chance to coach in New York because it’s “a great city and a great organization.”

Pentland, 68, is a veteran hitting coach who started out on the UC Riverside and Arizona State coaching staffs before working his way up through the minors and to the big leagues. He has been a hitting coach with the Marlins (1996), Cubs (1997-2002), Royals (2003-05), Mariners (2005-08), and Dodgers (2010-11) over the years. He spent the 2014 season as a minor league hitting coordinator with the Marlins.

Through the years Pentland worked alongside several members of the Yankees coaching staff and front office. He was the Cubs hitting coach when Joe Girardi played there from 2000-02, plus he was on the staff with Larry Rothschild in 2002 and worked under special assistant Jim Hendry from 1997-2002, when Hendry was in the Chicago front office. Pentland also served as the Royals hitting coach back when Tony Pena was the manager in Kansas City.

Davidoff and King say minor league hitting coordinator James Rowson continues to be a candidate for the hitting coach job, though it’s possible he will instead be brought on as the assistant hitting coach. Brian Cashman recently shot down a report saying Marcus Thames was set to be hired for the assistant’s job. Either way, it’ll be another few until the coaching staff is finalized.

Hot Stove Notes: Tulo, Hamels, Rollins, Upton, Kuroda

(Christian Petersen/Getty)
(Christian Petersen/Getty)

Aside from the never-ending tinkering and miscellaneous depth additions, the Yankees seem to be more or less done with their major offseason business. They could always surprise us and do something big, they have a way of keeping things under wraps, but I’m not expecting anything significant. Here are some stray pieces of hot stove news.

Yankees checked in on Troy Tulowitzki recently

According to Jon Heyman, the Yankees checked in with the Rockies about Troy Tulowitzki late last week. It’s unclear if this was before or after they traded Martin Prado to the Marlins on Friday. Heyman says there is still a big gap in talks about Tulowitzki and not just with the Yankees, but with every team looking to acquire him. I’m pretty sure the Bombers were just doing their due diligence after reports surfaced saying the Mets were after Tulo last week.

As scary as is his injury history is, Tulowitzki is a bargain with six years and $118M left on his contract. That’s basically the Pablo Sandoval contract with one extra year.  The 30-year-old Tulowitzki has hit .316/.399/.551 (park-adjusted 146 wRC+) these last three years and has been by far the most valuable shortstop in the game on a rate basis. One hundred games of Tulo and 62 games of Brendan Ryan would equal elite shortstop production. That said, the Yankees have done a nice job of getting younger this offseason, and Tulowitzki would just be another big contract on the pile. If they were closer to being serious contenders, I’d be all for it. But they’re not, so let’s see what Didi Gregorius can do.

Yankees not on Cole Hamels’ no-trade list

The Yankees are not one of the 21 teams on Cole Hamels’ no-trade list, reports Bob Nightengale. We heard this back in July, but Hamels can change his no-trade list each year and apparently the Bombers are not on it again. That’s surprising. Players usually include big market teams like the Yankees on their no-trade lists because those are the teams more likely to pay something in exchange approving a trade. For example, Hamels could demand that his $20M option for 2019 be exercised before agreeing to a deal.

Hamels, who turns 31 on Saturday, had a 2.46 ERA (3.07 FIP) in 204.2 innings this past season. He’s thrown 200+ innings in five straight years and 180+ innings in eight straight years. Hamels and Jon Lester were born eleven days apart and are basically the same pitcher, but Lester signed for six years and $155M this winter while Hamels has four years and $100M left on his deal, plus the option for 2019. The Phillies are understandably asking for a huge return for their ace and the Yankees have not been connected to him this winter, but boy oh boy would Hamels be huge addition.

(Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)
(Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)

Jimmy Rollins would have approved trade to Yankees

Earlier this offseason we heard the Yankees called the Phillies about shortstop Jimmy Rollins, but soon moved on because the asking price was too high. Rollins had ten-and-five no-trade protection and he told Mark Saxon he only would have accepted a trade to the Yankees, Mets, or Dodgers, with the Dodgers being his first choice. Los Angeles acquired Rollins for minor league pitchers Zach Eflin and Tom Windle last week.

I really liked the idea of Rollins as a one-year stopgap — there’s only one year and $11M left on his contract — but only if the Yankees were unable to acquire a younger shortstop, which they did in Gregorius. Eflin and Windle are good but not great prospects. Something like Manny Banuelos and Ty Hensley might have been the equivalent Yankees’ package, but it’s not a perfect comparison. Banuelos is two level higher than both Eflin and Windle and those two are healthier than Hensley. Either way, the Yankees and Dodgers now have their new shortstops.

Yankees were not involved in Justin Upton sweepstakes

Before he was traded to the Padres last week, the Yankees were not involved in the bidding for outfielder Justin Upton, according to Buster Olney. New York has tried to trade for the good Upton several times in the past, but their starting outfield is set and earlier this winter they re-signed Chris Young to come off the bench. Plus they just acquired Garrett Jones, who can also play right field. Upton will be a free agent next offseason, when he will still be only 28 years old. He’s going to get a monster contract and the Yankees could in the mix then.

Still no update on Hiroki Kuroda

And finally, last week Brian Cashman told Jack Curry the team still has no idea if Hiroki Kuroda will pitch next season. Cashman also said the money has to work for them to add another pitcher, which isn’t surprising given their current contract commitments. The rotation is ostensibly full right now, but there’s a ton of injury risk and Chris Capuano could always slide into the bullpen. I do think the Yankees would welcome Kuroda back with open arms — the “money has to work” comment could just be posturing — but they obviously aren’t planning on him coming back either.